The Station Casinos food and beverage department seems to have a lot of fun; they work hard, but they don’t take themselves so seriously that work becomes a vampire, sucking the life out of them. I especially love how they celebrate holidays with outrageous cocktails. When I arrived at the Charcoal Room in Santa Fe Station to try the Halloween special—a molecular gastronomy-inspired “blood” sphere—I was greeted by the ghost of dinner past, a chicken skeleton baked in molasses to give it that juicy mummy look. Festooned with blood oranges for effect, mummy-chicken was destined to freak out someone in the department. This place knows how to party!
Chef Johannes Bernau is serious as the tomb: “Food, cocktails … They are the same to me: I am only limited by my imagination and physics.” He took me through the spherification process, which basically involves dropping the cocktail base into an align bath—like dropping cookie dough onto a pan—and then retrieving the result. In this case, it’s a plump, blood-red blob filled with orange-flavor vodka, and blood orange, raspberry and lemon juices. The gelatinous casing bursts in your mouth not unlike those Gushers fruit chews that once wreaked havoc on so many braces. I can tell you, the adult version is sooo much better.
Vampire’s Blood Spheres
As served at the Charcoal Room in Santa Fe Station on Halloween, three for $5
To make the alginate bath, combine 5 grams sodium alginate (Algin, 500 grams, $42, ArtisanalFoods.com), 1 liter filtered water and 50 grams sugar in a blender; set aside in a deep loaf pan for 4 hours or until the bubbles are gone. For the sphere base, combine 100 milliliters fresh blood orange juice, 50 milliliters fresh raspberry juice, 50 milliliters orange-flavored vodka, the juice of one lemon and 2½ grams calcium lactate gluconate (Gluco, 600 grams, $45, ArtisanalFoods.com) in a blender for one minute. Add ½ gram xanthan gum (Xantana, 600 grams, $57, ArtisanalFoods.com) as the blender is going; set aside in a bowl for 24 hours or until bubbles are gone. To make the spheres, drop one tablespoon of the sphere base into the alginate bath for 30 seconds; allow it to sink to the bottom. After 10 seconds, flip it over to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Gently retrieve the sphere with a slotted spoon and place in a bath of filtered water to stop the chemical reaction. Serve on a Chinese spoon garnished with edible silver dust or store briefly in non-flavored oil.